What is clear and further clarified from Bar-Asher Siegal’s groundbreaking work is that the Talmud is no longer a hermit, cut off from family ties with other so-called non-rabbinic Jews, nor Zoroastrians, nor Greek philosophy, nor Syriac monastic literature as shown so compellingly by Bar-Asher Siegal. It is not that this context rather than that context is more illuminating; rabbinic Mesopotamia was a meeting point of empires, languages, and cultures, a crossing-point between East and West, and the Talmud was part and parcel of that complex cultural world. Bar-Asher Siegal’s book opens another door into that world and the ways and means that its presence there sheds light on the Babylonian Talmud.I noted the book upon its publication in 2013.
Saturday, June 13, 2015
Ilona Regulski, the British Museum’s curator of Egyptian Written Culture, said: “Ancient Egypt has produced an astonishing variety of written material representing indigenous as well as foreign languages.
“No other culture has yielded such a rich variety of inscribed objects and nowhere else have they been so well preserved.”
Ms Regulski said the exhibition WRITING FOR ETERNITY: Decoding Ancient Egypt illustrates 4,000 years of writing in Egypt presenting ancient hieroglyphs next to Coptic, Greek, Arabic and Nubian documents.
She added: “Familiar objects, such as papyrus and stone, alternate with surprising artefacts such as the scribe’s pen and pieces of jewellery.”
UPDATE (15 June): Dead link now fixed!
Friday, June 12, 2015
- Facebook has removed pages that were flagged for reportedly selling artifacts stolen by ISIS
- Among the goods being offered were golden statues, scrolls written in both Hebrew and Aramaic, clay tablets, and ancient coins
- The terrorist organization is believed to be using middlemen to sell the artifacts they plunder, and have made up to $100million
On the one hand, this is bad. On the other, there is a certain amount of garbling here: coins were only invented around twenty-five hundred years ago, so ten-thousand-year-old coins would be pretty scarce. All of the artifacts pictured in the article look modern to me (i.e., produced within the last few hundred years and maybe quite recently), although I am not a numismatist or an expert on gold statues.
There are two Hebrew scrolls. The script looks modern in both cases and it may be relevant that a Syriac manuscript in gold lettering has come up in the news in recent years and seems to be early modern to modern. That said, here is a report of a ninth-century Latin manuscript also written in gold lettering, so this is an old custom. But that said, Steve Caruso keeps better track of these things than I do, and he has seen a number of what he regards to be modern forgeries of Hebrew and Syriac manuscripts in gold lettering in recent years.
I do not think these Hebrew manuscripts are very old.
It looks like ISIS is looting modern artifacts too and selling them, and that some of these are being taken to be ancient. Some may even be forgeries. All in all it's a bad business.Related post here.
The 2,000-year-old texts, written in Greek, Latin, Coptic Egyptian and hieratic, were acquired by the university 115 years ago but were subsequently overlooked.So far there is no mention of anything directly relevant to ancient Judaism in the papyri, but there were Jewish communities in Egypt at the indicated time, and something may surface in due course. Watch this space.
Sabine Huebner, professor of ancient history, recently found them in two drawers in the library’s manuscripts section, the university said on its website.
She began searching for them after responding to a request from a papyrologist (a scholar studying ancient papyrus manuscripts) who wanted to know if the Basel university had a papyrus collection.
The 65 manuscripts are “mostly everyday documents”, such as contracts, letters receipts and petitions, Huebner said in an interview published by the university.
But one of the most interesting ones is a private letter written by a Christian that dates from the first half of the third century, she said.
The article concludes with this reminder:
Huebner added that only five percent of known papyrus manuscripts in the world have been edited and published while most are sitting in boxes waiting to be analyzed, offering plenty of potential for new research.And that's just the known ones, not the ones still sitting forgotten in some drawer. I commented on the implications for Old Testament pseudepigrapha research back in 2007 (with reference to a BNTC lecture by Larry Hurtado).
- The mysterious Codex Gigas has a full-page colour image of the Devil
- Legend has it that a monk made a deal with the devil to create the text
- Handwriting analysis has revealed that the text was written by one scribe
Legend has it that a monk from the Middle Ages was sentenced to being walled up alive for breaking his monastic vows.So what did all human knowledge consist of back then? Let's see:
To avoid punishment, the monk promised to write, in a single night, a book containing all human knowledge. As midnight approached, the monk became desperate and turned to Lucifer for help, offering to make a pact to finish the book in exchange for his soul.
Lucifer agreed and signed the work by adding a self-portrait of himself. In the colourful image, he is placed against an empty landscape framed by two large towers.
The Codex Gigas contains five long texts along with the complete Bible.Josephus would probably be pleased that his works were considered essential human knowledge, but I don't think he would have approved of the context.
The book begins with the Old Testament, and it is followed by two works by Flavius Josephus who lived in the first century AD.
It ends with the New Testament and the last of the long works is a Chronicle of Bohemia by Cosmas from Prague.
A more detailed description of the contents, as well as other information about date etc., is found on the Codex Gigas Wikipedia page.
About half of the codex consists of the entire Latin Bible in the Vulgate version, except for the books of Acts and Revelation, which are from a pre-Vulgate version. They are in the order: Genesis–Ruth; Isaiah–Daniel; Hosea–Malachi; Job; Samuel and Kings; Psalms–Song of Solomon; Wisdom of Solomon; Wisdom of Jesus; Esdras; Tobit; Judith; Esther; and Maccabees. Between the Testaments are Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews and De bello iudaico, as well as Isidore of Seville's encyclopedia Etymologiae and medical works of Hippocrates, Theophilus, Philaretus, and Constantinus. Following a blank page, the New Testament commences with Matthew-Acts, James-Revelation, and Romans-Hebrews. Following the picture of the devil, Cosmas of Prague's Chronicle of Bohemia, a list of brothers in the Podlažice monastery, and a calendar with necrologium, magic formulae and other local records round out the codex. The entire document is written in Latin; in addition, it contains Hebrew, Greek, and Slavic alphabets (Cyrillic and Glagolitic).
She goes unmentioned in the Bible, but Mrs Judas Iscariot is finally getting recognition thanks to her first-ever portrait, which is the star attraction at a new exhibition of paintings set to tour cathedrals.And this is intriguing:
The show, inspired by ancient stories that fleshed out Biblical characters centuries afterwards and even added new ones, seeks to give a voice to unnamed and forgotten women in the scriptures.
Artist Chris Gollon has painted 17 new works for Incarnation, Mary & Women from the Bible, which opens at Chichester Cathedral next week and will subsequently travel to the cathedrals of Durham and Hereford.
One of the most striking new works is the portrait of Judas’s wife, a figure who does not feature in the Bible but begins to be referenced in story fragments from as early as the fifth century.
One papyrus fragment with Coptic text dates to the fifth century, telling the story of Judas’s wife convincing him to betray Jesus and then refusing to feel remorse after he does.Typically, the article does not tell us which text this is. But perhaps Tony Burke will enlighten us.
The other week, nine Oxford academics submitted a ‘Question in Congregation’ on the cuts to the University’s libraries budget. The immediate cause of this was the recent proposal to close the Oriental Institute Library, currently in the Oriental Institute, and transfer its holdings to the Sackler Library, already under considerable pressure. This move has been criticised by both students and staff in the Oriental Institute and the Classics Faculty, and has been covered in the Oxford Student and Cherwell.This sounds like a setback for both the study of ancient Semitic languages (in the Oriental Institute Library) and Slavonic. I hope they manage to keep afloat in these tough economic times.
But this proposal for the Oriental Institute Library is only one part of a wider restructuring of the University’s Humanities libraries. In 2012 the History Faculty Library was closed (despite opposition by academics and students) and its contents moved to the Gladstone Link. The Taylorian’s Slavonic and Greek Library is in the process of being wound up, and its books moved into the Taylorian. What future centralisations, rationalisations and downsizings the University management may have in mind have not been disclosed. What is certain, however, is that the root cause of the closures is budgetary.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
- She was found curled up on her side, with her chin resting on her hand
- Next to her was a bronze cosmetics spoon with a lump of kohl eyeliner
- Excavation also uncovered Roman vessels and pieces of ornate jewellery
- It provides evidence that the Romans traded with the Aksumite kingdom hundreds of years earlier than thought
"Sleeping Beauty" would have been buried not long after the time of the Ethiopian eunuch who appears in Acts 8:26-40 (although he was from the Kingdom of Kush, which was later annexed by the Kingdom of Aksum [Axum]). Aksum is also associated with legends about the Ark of the Covenant (here, here, here, here, and here; additional background here and links) and has recently been connected (controversially) with the Queen of Sheba (here, here, and here; additional background here and links). A tradition associates the early Ge'ez Garima Gospels with Aksum. Also, more on Jews and Christians in late-antique Aksum here.
Sens. Pat Toomey, D-Pa.; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn; and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. stepped in last year to protect Torah parchments, ancient prayer books and other Jewish artifacts that American soldiers confiscated in Iraq in 2003 , according to the Post-Gazette.The recent rise of ISIS in Iraq does tend to focus the mind when considering whether these Jewish artifacts should go back to that region.
The senators said the artifacts should not be returned to a government who stole them. The items are now at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, where scholars may access them.
The U.S. and Iraq came to an agreement to keep the 2,300 artifacts for an additional two years, but the senators are looking for more permanent solution. Nearly $3 million has been spent to protect and preserve the artifacts from Iraq, and many hope this same effort will go towards the most recent ISIS acquisition.
“The ISIS terrorists have only contempt for things that civilized society holds dear: life, education, history and culture,” Sen. Toomey said.
Background here and links.
The intrepid tourists who do come to Jordan’s archaeological sites often have other parts of the region on their itinerary as well, including Israel, the West Bank and Egypt. Jack Spears, an American from Phoenix, flew to Jerusalem first before making his way to Jerash, 30 miles north of Amman, the Jordanian capital. As he completed his tour of the ruins here, he stopped to look at the monumental Arch of Hadrian at the entrance, erected to honor the emperor’s visit to the city in A.D. 129.Lots more on Petra here and links and on Palmyra here and links.
“When you start off, it looks small, and like there’s not much to see,” he said of the sprawling site. “But the more you go in, the bigger and better it becomes.”
In calmer times a few years ago, it was easy for visitors to book a tour with stops at three spectacular ancient sites — starting at Petra, the famous city carved from rose-colored stone cliffs in southern Jordan, then Jerash, and on to Palmyra in Syria.
Palmyra has much in common with Jerash: Both were crossroads of cultures in the ancient world, and both feature well-preserved colonnades and majestic Roman amphitheaters. But Palmyra recently fell under the control of the Islamic State extremist group, which has been known to loot or smash many cultural artifacts. According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Islamic State used the amphitheater in Palmyra to kill nearly two dozen prisoners.
And tangentially related: ‘Massacre’ averted in Luxor, Egyptian police say after bombing. Security measures ramped up at tourist sites in wake of foiled attack on famed Karnak temple, as crucial industry struggles to survive (AFP). That was a close call. Although no one but the terrorists were hurt, this incident is not likely to do the Egyptian tourism industry any good.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Archaeological excavations near Highway 1 – at the entrance to Abu Gosh, west of Jerusalem – uncovered a large Byzantine-era road station that included a church, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday.
The excavations were conducted while upgrading and widening the highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in a project initiated and funded by the National Roads Company, said IAA spokeswoman Yoli Shwartz.
The road station and church were found adjacent to a seep spring known as Ein Naqa'a, located on the outskirts of Moshav Bet Neqofa, said Shwartz.
When historians write about the roots of hair removal, they usually describe an enjoyable bathing ritual in which luxurious unguents are languidly applied to the skin. Wine is often involved, as are solicitous and comely attendants.But she goes on to discuss a less romantic myth, or at least legend:
The modern reality bears no resemblance to such romantic myths. ...
... In Plucked: A Social History of Hair Removal by Rebecca Herzig, the gender studies professor looks at Western leg-shaving habits across racial, ethnic and regional lines. The book explores the extremes women go to in pursuit of smooth skin, recounting how a popular 19th-century depilatory powder, Dr. Felix Gouraud’s Poudres Subtile for Uprooting Hair, marketed itself as being based on a formula used by the Queen of Sheba. Herzig reminds readers that in some ancient versions of the Quran and the Hebrew Bible, King Solomon summons demons to make núra, an arsenic-laced quick lime depilatory to apply to the queen’s hairy legs (other versions of the story suggest the substance was made of boiled honey and turpentine and rolled onto the skin).The story of the Queen of Sheba's hairy legs may be hinted at in the Qur'an, but it does not appear in the Hebrew Bible. Rather, we know it from later Muslim and Jewish legends. I have collected some background here (final paragraph of post).
UPDATE: Also, lots more on the (perhaps) historical and the legendary Queen of Sheba here, here, here, and links
Prison terms, 12,000 NIS fine for Arabs who caused irreparable damage to one of the most important sites ever found in Judean Desert.The story of their arrest was noted here in December of 2014.
Be'er Sheva Magistrate's court sentenced six Arab antiquities thieves to 18 months in jail each, along with a fine totaling 12,000 NIS, for plundering one of the most important archaeological sites ever discovered in the Judean Desert.
The robbers, all from the village of Seir near Hevron, were caught in the act last November by inspectors from the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery while plundering an ancient cave in the cliffs above Nahal Ze’elim in the Judean Desert.
Israel Antiquities Authority inspectors believe the accused were looking for ancient scrolls hidden during the Bar Kokhba period.
An exquisitely sculpted ancient bust of a woman from Palmyra, Syria, is returned to view for the first time since 2006 at the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Named "Haliphat," it will be accompanied by images of 18th-century engravings and 19th-century photographs of ancient Palmyra selected from the Freer|Sackler Libraries and Archives. ...Background on Palmyra, its ancient history, and its current fate is here and links.
Background here and links.
Tuesday, June 09, 2015
Rediscovering the Apocryphal ContinentFollow the link for TOC and ordering information. Tony Burke has a book note with more information over at Apocryphicity.
New Perspectives on Early Christian and Late Antique Apocryphal Texts and Traditions
Ed. by Pierluigi Piovanelli and Tony Burke with the collaboration of Timothy Pettipiece
This volume collects the contributions of a group of North American scholars who started rethinking, in 2004, the traditional category of New Testament Apocrypha, largely dominated by theological concerns, according to the new perspectives of a greater continuity not only between Second Temple Jewish and early Christian scriptural productions, but also between early Christian and late antique apocryphal literatures. This is the result of the confluence of two, so far, alternative approaches: on the one hand, the deconstruction of the customary categories, inherited from ancient heresiology, of "Jewish Christianity" and "Gnosticism," and on the other hand, the new awareness that the production of new apocryphal texts did not cease at the end of the third century but continued well into late antiquity and beyond. These papers bring together for the first time the typically North American need to reconsider "The Ways That Never Parted" and other artificially drawn "Border Lines" with the more European attention paid to the phenomenon of apocryphicity in the long term. In the twenty essays published here, different facets of this apocryphal continent are newly explored, from the Christian appropriation of Jewish stories and literary genres, with a special emphasis on the case of the late antique Pseudo-Clementines and their hypothetical Jewish Christian source, to the complex and controversial situation of the narrative roles attributed to such figures as Judas Iscariot, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of Jesus, or Peter. These new insights are particularly relevant not only for the history of the first Jesus movement but also, and especially, for gaining a better understanding of the ways Judaism and Christianity evolved initially together, then side by side, according to a process of differentiation that took more time than previously thought.
The volume includes my article, "Did Christians Write Old Testament Pseudepigrapha That Appear to Be Jewish?" the conference version of which you can read here. A revised and expanded form of the paper later became chapter two of my book The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha (Brill, 2005).
Founded in 1982 by beloved Saint Martin’s Professor Fr. Kilian Malvey, O.S.B., the series is now facilitated by Associate Prof. Ian Werrett, Ph.D., a member of the university’s religious studies faculty. The Institute is offered as an undergraduate course in religious studies, for continuing education credit and for members of the community. The 2015 Institute will be July 6-10 on the Saint Martin’s University campus.Sounds worthwhile if you are in the area. As I have noted before (most recently here), Professor Werrett was one of my doctorals students.
This year, the speakers showcase ‘Illustrated Manuscripts, Scribal Practices and the Transmission of Scripture.’ Guest speakers Stephen Delamarter, Ph.D., Hanna Tervanotko, Ph.D., and Katie Bugyis, P.D., will spotlight many diverse global and historical traditions of written scripture.
They will delve into the roles people have played in producing Scripture — its writing, editing and copying – and the various ways in which their activity is reflected in scribal practices, as well as the material evidence that remains. “Each of our speakers approach the daily subtopics from a slightly different angle, and the result is often quite dynamic and powerful,” Werrett says of the Institute’s format. “This year, we have speakers who are experts in Ethiopic scribal practices, medieval Catholicism and ancient Judaism. A program like the Spiritual Life Institute provides residents with a rare opportunity to be exposed to a variety of ideas and concepts that they wouldn’t ordinarily encounter; whether a person of faith or not, attendees will find the discussions to be enlightening, challenging and relevant.”
The oldest known crown in the world, which was famously discovered in 1961 as part of the Nahal Mishmar Hoard, along with numerous other treasured artifacts, dates back to the Copper Age between 4000–3500 B.C.The crown looks like a more modest version of Sauron's crown, which makes me want to search more carefully among the hoard for any rings.
It was revealed in New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World as part of the “Masters of Fire: Copper Age Art from Israel” exhibit earlier this year.
The ancient crown is just one out of more than 400 artifacts that were recovered in a cave in the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea more than half a century ago. The crown is shaped like a thick ring and features vultures and doors protruding from the top. It is believed that it played a part in burial ceremonies for people of importance at the time.
New York University wrote: “An object of enormous power and prestige, the blackened, raggedly cast copper crown from the Nahal Mishmar Hoard greets the visitor to Masters of Fire. The enigmatic protuberances along its rim of vultures and building façades with squarish apertures, and its cylindrical shape, suggest links to the burial practices of the time.”
Seriously, the Nahal Mishmar hoard is outside the normal time frame of PaleoJudaica, but the artifacts are so cool and are mentioned so infrequently that I can't help noting the stories when I find one. The last time was back in 2007.
The National Planning and Building Appeals Committee approved, but ordered a scaled-down version of, the proposed Kedem Center – a highly contested visitors compound to be operated by a right-wing NGO over an active excavation site in east Jerusalem’s Silwan, opposite the Old City’s walls.There always seems to be just one more committee that needs to approve these building projects. The last report I noted seemed to imply that construction on the Center was about to begin. Well see ...
The Sunday night ruling was followed Monday morning by dueling statements claiming victory from the Ir David Foundation (Elad), which initiated the project, and the left-wing NGOs Ir Amim and Emek Shaveh, which jointly filed a petition to block it.
Monday, June 08, 2015
A film with the jaw-dropping conclusions that Jesus was buried, his lost tomb was found in Jerusalem and that he had married Mary Magdalene and had children with her has been declared clear of being a fraud by the Lod District Court.Background here and links.
Judge Jacob Sheinman also granted the filmmaker, in a decision handed down late Sunday, but not announced until Monday, Simcha Jacobovici, NIS 800,000 in damages for having been defamed by his critic, Joe Zias.
This would be one of the largest defamation awards in years, with Jacobovici’s lawyer, Yossi Abadi, estimating the average defamation award in 2014 at the much lower mark of around NIS 37,000.
Sheinman did not fully resolve the underlying controversy about whether Jacobovici’s eye-popping conclusions in his various films, which strike at the heart of Christian theology, are true, ruling only that there was no proof that they were fraudulent and leaving the final question of truth to theologians and academics.
Rather, Sheinman said that Zias, a former Antiquities Authority official, had gone beyond the bounds of academic criticism by undermining Jacobovici’s films on a commercial level with claims that were themselves not properly grounded, causing him serious financial harm.
The following video offers stunning aerial footage of the ruins of Shivta, a Nabatean farming village situated along the portion of the ancient Spice Route that passes through Israel’s southern Negev region.Another cool, unnarrated flyover video by Amir Aloni.
On this most recent pilgrimage to the synagogue, a small part of me was nervous, but not due to fear; I felt that something was pulling me to go to the synagogue on Shavuot and reaffirm some semblance of a Jewish presence in a very Jewish place, 30 miles from the Islamic State — a symbolic act of spiritual resistance.Related (Jack Crone, Daily Mail): Christian family in ancient Iraqi city of Nineveh prepare to defend 2,700 year-old tomb of Jewish prophet, as ISIS armies advance to just 10 miles away
This 2,500-year-old synagogue is the only Jewish structure still standing in northern Iraq. It is the most prominent and visible reminder still standing of Kurdistan’s 3,000-year-old Jewish history. Yet it is not well known to the Iraqi public. It was a good friend — an expat who had been living in Kurdistan for several years — who first told me about the synagogue’s existence. I went, and was entranced.
Though the synagogue is half rubble and long emptied of its most important articles and artifacts, it is still easy to imagine the site in its original splendor; the building is quite large and once included a second floor, as well as a large courtyard. In the center of the worship area stands an ornate, four-sided gate that is easily opened. Inside the gate is a wooden box covered with multiple layers of green cloth. It is in this place that, according to tradition, the remains of Nahum lie — or used to. Over the centuries, successive attacks on the synagogue led the Jewish communities’ Assyrian Christian neighbors to remove the site’s remains for safekeeping in a nearby church. In any event, what actually lies in the resting place at either site is, at the least, a matter of legitimate historical debate. While there were initial attempts to renovate the synagogue several years ago, nothing substantial has materialized. The structure remains as precarious as ever.
- Asir Salaam Shajaa says grandfather was tasked with defending monument
- The duty has passed down through generations but now looks perilous
- Ancient Nineveh stood in what is now the northern Iraqi town of Al Qosh
- ISIS recently captured nearby Ramadi in hugely significant territorial battle